The Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association helps Massachusetts residents “tap” into nature by providing hands-on, innovative programs that teach children and adults about the maple sugaring process. For the past eight springs, the Association has devoted thousands of volunteer hours at the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, to offer Maple Sugar Days on spring weekends. “We engage visitors in the entire process, from identifying and tapping a sugar maple to eating maple sugar treats,” said Valerie Paul, founder and president of the Association.
“ We want to connect kids to nature, and particularly to this New England tradition, this park, and the rich history of the Blackstone Valley Corridor, ”Visitors learn that they don’t need fancy equipment, milk jugs make great sap buckets and they are encouraged to try maple sugaring at home. One inspired visitor who did just that reported, “Now my children check their sap buckets before they check their emails!” At a time when children are spending more time watching television and using computers, this statement speaks volumes about the Association’s impact on connecting children and adults to nature and their parks.
During the recent National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) conference in Stone Mountain, GA, the Blackstone Valley Maple Sugaring Association of Massachusetts was presented a 2009 President’s Award for its extraordinary contribution to state parks at a local, regional, or national level. “We are thrilled to honor people who have given their time and talents to better our nation’s state park system through their actions in their home states,” said Joe Elton, president of NASPD and Director of Virginia State Parks. “They represent many other individuals, friends, and partners who we, as park directors and citizens of our states, rely upon to help preserve and enhance our state park treasures across the nation.”
The National Association of State Parks Directors is composed of park directors from all 50 states. NASPD meets annually in September to share ideas about operations, budgets, and other issues. This year’s meeting focused on balancing budget challenges with meeting operational needs and visitor expectations.
Elton also comments that his own state of Virginia also has many programs geared to get children outdoors. For example, the state park grounds at Lake Anna are home to a long abandoned gold mine. Each summer the staff at Lake Anna State Park uses soil from the mine and holds panning for gold programs.
For more information on other innovative programs and organizations in Virginia encouraging us to Get Outside, click here